Laughter at Work

By | 2017-01-13T13:42:24+00:00 June 1st, 2010|Categories: Respectful Workplace|Tags: , |4 Comments


Laughter and work may seem like an oxymoron. Work is often associated with words like serious, dignified, and composed while laughter is associated with foolishness or goofing off. Granted, even good things can be bad if taken to extreme.  Laughter that is offensive or disrespectful is never funny or appropriate. However, laughter and work do not have to be incompatible, and work, without laughter is sad.

Consider the positive effects of laughter. Laughter is a cheap cure for the office blahs and can do much to create a more positive environment. It has been found to boost productivity and create numerous health benefits. Laughter is known to:

• Reduce tension
• Lower resistance to change
• Build team spirit
• Foster transparency
• Neutralize negativity
• Stimulate creativity, and
• Raise morale

These are desirable qualities for any workplace. Supervisors are wise to incorporate the kind of humor that produces such qualities. Resources may not be available to offer tangible rewards or incentives, but the human spirit can nearly always be lifted with humor.

On a practical note, one of my favorite assignments for college composition classes is to instruct students to write a personal narrative that details a humorous incident from their own lives. At first, students give me a blank stare. Then, I begin to share examples from my own life. I use dramatic, exaggerated detail to recreate a time when I spilled black paint on a new white carpet, or the time I fell off of a treadmill. Soon, students are laughing and begin to analyze just what creates humor. The most laughable situations are often not funny. It’s the embarrassing moments in life, the human foibles that catch people in the act of being themselves, of being real, that people find most entertaining.

Beneath every dignified façade, there is a human being capable of slipping on a banana peel or falling out of a chair. Everyone relates, and that is the essence of humor. Humor is not so much about being funny as it is in developing a sense of humor. It is a perspective that finds humor in every day situations. It may also involve doing the unexpected to break monotony.

I am known for April Fools pranks. Colleagues have sometimes found that their computer mouse isn’t connecting. It’s only a matter of minutes before the person lifts the mouse and turns it over to find the words “April Fool” taped to the bottom of the roller. I also like to bring in snacks that look like something other than what they are. Crinkle cut apples sprinkled with cinnamon sugar make convincing French fries. My rules for such acts are simple:  nothing messy, destructive, or harmful—just funny.

How do you have fun at work?

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  1. Aaron Ziff June 2, 2010 at 9:26 am

    I read a great definition of comedy once: comedy is the expression of something unexpected or surprising. Think about slapstick, punchline jokes, etc. They all represent situations that catch us off-guard. This feeling is what we find exhilirating.

  2. Paul Meshanko June 2, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Nice post, Marcia (and Melanie). It’s nice to read a piece that makes you smile even by reading just the title! Given the roller coaster economy we’ve all been through, appropriate humor is in greater demand than ever. Also, I think I’m going to borrow the computer mouse trick next year…on my wife and kids. :>)

  3. Kim Langley June 2, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    I love being at the point in my life where it’s easy to laugh at myself. And I see that when I take myself lightly, it gives everyone in the room permission to do the same thing. Permission to be human…to enjoy being human…it’s a beautiful thing.

  4. Chetan Borkhetaria June 3, 2010 at 9:41 am

    This is a very timely post – with most professionals still in survival mode (I need to get hired, I have no budget, I need to fill my empty funnel), laughter is something seemingly easy to achieve and incorporate. And of course as mentioned, it can have a BIG positive impact!

    I’m also a firm believer that if an organization, a work group, or even an individual performer is able to laugh, especially during the really difficult times, it says a lot about their developmental sophistication.

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